Piano Trio in E Major
In no way does the chamber music of Tomás Bretón (1850-1923) deserve the neglect that it has received. His light operas, or as the Spanish call them Zarzuelas, are still performed in Spain. But even there, his fine chamber music has been not received the attention it deserves.
Bretón was born in the Spanish city of Salamanca. His father, a baker, died when he was two. He started playing the violin at age eight and within two years was already playing in theater orchestras helping to support his family. When his mother moved to Madrid, he entered the conservatory there, studying violin and composition. During his studies and after he continued playing in theaters and restaurants. Finally fortune smiled on him at the age of 30 when he was awarded scholarships which allowed him to study in Rome and Vienna. Over the following years, he made his name as a composer of Zarzuelas and as a pioneer of serious Spanish opera. He eventually became director of the Madrid Conservatory as well as the Sociedad de Conciertos--the forerunner of the Madrid Symphony Orchestra.
Bretón, although a passionate advocate of Spanish music, wished to put it on the same footing as German and Italian music and take it out of the music hall atmosphere of the Zarzuela. For this, his more serious music, his opera, orchestral works and chamber music were often attacked in his native Spain as not being Spanish enough. These attacks were basically made by ignorant critics who failed to realize that the kind of national music which could be placed in a light-hearted operetta could not be placed in more serious works in the same fashion. The truth was that, Bretón infused Spanish melodies into all of these works, but much more subtlely in his more serious works. Bretón's chamber music is original-sounding not only because of the unusual and disparate influences it fuses together but also because of his harmonic boldness. Those who have taken the time to familiarize themselves with his music are recognized that it is the equal of his foreign counterparts.
His Piano Trio in E Major dates from 1891 and blends elements of the early Viennese romantic style with the richer more florid writing of late romantic French chamber music. The opening movement, Allegro commodo, begins quietly but quickly gets moving. The main theme is based on an upward scale passage. If one listens carefully, one can hear tinges of Spanish melody. The second theme is quite lyrical. The second movement, Andante, highlights the singing quality of Bretón's writing and its pacing clearly shows him as a master of music for the stage. One can well visualize a lovely duet between singers. A charming scherzo, Allegro molto, follows. Here the influence of the late French romantics, in particular Saint-Saens, can be heard. The finale, Allegro energico, begins with a rhythmically unusual theme. The music is brilliant and animated.
Out of print for more than a century, it is a pleasure to reproduce it. We hope that both professionals and amateurs will take the time to acquaint themselves with this fine work